Friday, September 30, 2011

Taco Bake

Did you ever notice that food sometimes has a story? I made Taco Bake tonight, I can not tell you the last time I made it, but I'm going to tell you the stories behind it.

First of all what is Taco Bake? It is what I will call Midwest cultural fusion food. We like to take food from other cultures and turn them into a casserole. The recipe comes from D's Grandma's church's cookbook, that I acquired on marrying my man. Grandma had given it to D as a graduation present. Which served two purposes, it raised funds for her church and gave the boy something to aspire to. I don't think he ever cooked from it but early in our marriage I most of what made came from my midwest memories. I love church cookbooks they are a interesting look into any community. In the midwest it is all about the casserole and the jello salad in all their variations. Trust me we can take most any food and change it to our tastes. (I don't eat jello with any kind of vegetable in it, carrots I'm looking at you.)

Wait let me back up to the original question, Taco Bake is layered in a cake pan: crescent roll crust, refried beans, taco meat (ground beef, sautéed onions and taco seasoning) and finally a layer of an egg, carton of sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese all mixed together. Bake that at 350F for about a half hour. Serve it, cut into a square (cause nothing says twisted Mexican food like a square) topped with lettuce and diced tomatoes. You could add shredded cheese but really why?

Tonight I forgot the lettuce and tomatoes but for some reason I served beets on the side. You need a vegetable in there somewhere. You already knew I was weird.

I think the reason casseroles are so popular in the midwest is the fact that having the oven on heats up the house nicely. I know now that the weather has cooled down I am fighting the urge to make chili, bake bread and make a roast simultaneously. Must be something in my DNA.

I will tell you the first time I brought it in for lunch where I worked in Charleston, all the ladies looked at me weird. One of them asked me to bring in my cookbooks so she could look through them. I am not sure she was impressed with what she saw. Different regions different food. South Carolina, I still miss your BBQ. One of the versions of manna from heaven that resides in my head is SC BBQ and corn bread, but really do you want that dropping on your head from heaven? Seems a bit messy to me.

The funny thing is somethings I will only make for other midwesterners. I think if you grow up with a type of food it becomes your comfort food. And I don't want any New Yorkers or Southerners turning up their noses at my good honest farm food, so I keep it for me and D. Selfish maybe so I like to think of it as family time.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What I did not get

And now we turn to the sad part of the festival day. I fell in love but I did not come home with a fleece. And it is not because the mill has it either, I did not buy one.

I fell in love with "Tinkerbell", he was so deep and dark and shiny. So so beautiful.

You see the sheen on this fleece? It was even big enough for me, over 5 pounds. Oh I desired it so much, but I really need to do more reconnaissance first. I looked in the fleece show and sale. Wow that seems like a great way to pick a fleece. They look at them and judge based on a point system. Some even had notes on them telling why they did not get more points. 


I was able to see a range of fleece sizes, prices and producers. I don't know if this festival had a featured breed but all the fleeces I saw were Romney. The price per pound varied from $8 to $20. The size ranged four to almost eight pounds that I saw. There was a silvery grey one that charmed me quite a bit also but it was $120. Not what I want in my first purchase. Well no I wanted it but common sense rules my life.

I have the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook on loan from the library. So I may be spending some time looking up different breeds and dreaming. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Can you guess what this weekend was? Well that shot does not really help but you can see it is much less crowded than Rhinebeck.

I have more yarn and yarny related goodness. 

Yep, it was Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival time again. I carefully picked out my socks so I could show them to their dyer. She took a picture and offered me 10% off the day's purchase but I was on the hunt for something and forgot to go back to the booth. I ended up buying from all new vendors.

First up we have Deathly Hallows from Forbidden Woolery. It is 100% Blue Faced Leicester (a sheep breed) and lovely. I was drawn into the booth by an amazing green skein but decided my last few purchases have been green, I will go with something different this time. (You're going to laugh at that comment later.) The shop owner pointed out to me that we tend to buy colors similar to what we're wearing and since I had on a green T-shirt it was certainly true in my case. 

Oh here is what I was looking for, my I gotta see that in real life item. A new project bag by Jessalu. She put up some pictures on Ravelry and I fell in love. I thought I was going for the TARDIS bag but this one with its glasses wearing knitting sheep, ah love at first sight. If you're looking for a new project bag I can tell you these are sturdy. We chatted for quite a while and I enjoyed it. Hey I may be coming out of my shell after all. 

Now this is a color scheme I don't see every day. Predominatly shades of green with browns and burnt red. This smooshy Merino/Nylon blend is from Bittersweet Woolery.

I ran into some of my knitting group sisters. After the festival I was hosting knitting at my house so we could show off all our goodies to each other. Well as we are know to do we started showing a bit early and I am just a tad glad because I was reminded that I had skipped the first building in search of my Jessalu bag. I went back and found these.

Red Maple, Super Sock 416 a Merino/Nylon blend and Forest, Sophia a Merino/Cashmere/Nylon blend from Ball and Skein. I saw this booth last year and wished I would have picked up a copy of the Ishbel pattern but I did not see any this year, but I got yarn!!

Oh look at that loveliness from Moonlight and Laughter. Why would I buy fiber and yarn packaged together? Thrum mittens of course. What is a Thrum mitten? Go look what the Yarn Harlot has to say about it, since she is the one that first introduced me to the idea. OK if you're too shy I will tell you what I know, some of which may be incorrect. They are a method of creating a lined mitten that was developed on the east coast of Canada. Instead of knitting the mitten with only yarn every so often you knit in a 3 inch piece of unspun fiber. The ends of the fiber are on the inside of the mitten and make it fuzzy. This will eventually felt and provide a wind proof and water proof mitten. Sounds toasty doesn't it? Well if I want to be warm I usually look to Canada or Norway for their innovations. They know warm.

Let me introduce you to Splendor Sock Yarn in Dark Roast by Jill Draper Makes Stuff. See what I mean about buying green yarn? Anyway this is a Merino/Cashmere/Nylon blend also. You sensing a theme in my buying this year? I make one set of Cashmere blend socks this year and now I am digging it! This is a manly color maybe I should introduce D to the softness that is Cashmere. You want me to say Cashmere one more time? Cashmere!

Who can turn down a T-shirt with ewes on it? Not this girl this year. And frolicking ewes also, I think I will wear this shirt on my birthday!

So that is what my festival yielded. Is it wrong to pet them all the time? Yeah, I did not think so either. Happy Knitting

Friday, September 23, 2011


D overhauled a bike for a friend and she in turn loaned us her new camp for a weekend. We are tent campers and usually it rains when we camp. It's not a big issue as D and I are from South Dakota farming people, we love rain. This time however since we had a firm roof over our heads, Mother Nature laughed at us and did not make it rain but added a nip to the air. That too did not bother us too much since the primary reason we go camping is to enjoy the campfire. 

D in his preferred natural state
One of the things I love about beach houses and camp houses is naming of these houses. The Dog House was a neighbor. (There you go Big H that is for you.) The Nut House was close by too.

Our temporary home was sadly unnamed. As we sat basking in the glow of the campfire we pondered names for a camp of our own one day. D thought mine should be the Yarn House/Tea House. We threw Cat House out of the running very early on. If we named it Bacon House for D, I think we would receive too many visitors.

Inside it was a cozy little place just enough room for two. We did bring the electric kettle from home. Some traditions are not to be messed with. Hot tea sure was welcome the next morning before the fire was going. I think the thermometer read in the 40s. It sure is tough to pull yourself out from under the sleeping bag.

I'm not sure how I feel about camping with a TV but hey who am I to judge. I am not proud to tell you we watched Super Troopers and 40 Year Old Virgin, but I did laugh, so that is what camping is all about.

We even had a neighbor join us to bask in the warmth of the fire. This little guy would get close to the flames then back off just enough not to bake himself. I think Daddy Long Legs are super cool spiders, mostly because they eat other spiders, or so I am told.

I'm telling you the mornings were quite brisk! And by brisk I mean three layers in front of the fire brisk. I used my time to finish my socks, finish a book and start Mom's mitts you saw last time. I even found a spot of sunshine to doze off in.  It is really nice to do a quick get away and recharge the batteries.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Feeling Less Sheepish

I'm feeling less sheepish but more fleecish. Let me define fleecish for you since it does not seem to be a real word. Fleecish, a state of excitement in which a person is preparing to buy their first sheep fleece.

I've done some research with nudges in the correct direction from friends and then I've mulled it over for a bit. First let me say I may not buy a fleece at all, when it comes down to it I want to be comfortable with what I get and don't want to look back and say if I had only waited till I knew a bit more. I am not a terribly spontaneous person, but I usually know what I like and when to get it.

So what have I learned? Many things. Starting with the paperwork for Battenkill Fiber Mill, it costs $31.75/lb to process raw wool into undyed yarn. Now for some reason I assumed 10 pounds of fleece maybe because it was a nice even number or because the form said any amount under 10 pounds increases the price by 25%.

So assuming 10x31.75 = $317.50 for processing alone. I almost dropped the idea right then but decided to forge on as I still did not know if any assumptions were correct yet.

Now assuming my 10 pounds is way too much and I buy less my processing fee goes to about $40/lb. Now I know I grew up in a buy-in-bulk society, if I buy a five pound fleece 5x40 = $200. That is better but still not what I am looking for. I'm still thinking the cost will out weigh the adventure.

Then I read somewhere. (I tried to take good notes but I got caught up in the search.) The price is per finished product weight. That has to lower the cost some, is it enough?

Ok now how much weight do you lose in the processing? Sounds like it ranges depending on the breed of sheep (lanolin production) and how dirty the fleece is. Most estimates said something like a third of the fleece weight is lost. So my five pounds of fleece is reduced to 3.35 pounds. 3.35x40 = $134. Yep I am getting closer.

So how much yarn do I need for my sweater? Normally this number resides in my head as a function of yardage, not pounds. I did not want to weigh a sweater but I saved that as a last resort option. Thanks for the idea Adriene! I don't think my scale would give as accurate a number as I was hoping to get. Thanks to Kisknit's suggested site I thought about some sweaters I've knit that may have some data for me. My go-to sweater yarn is Cascade 220 and I keep reasonably good notes so I know how many balls of Cascade 220 it takes to make a sweater for me. A skein of that weighs 3.53oz. Let's say it took 8 skeins. (I think it was closer to 6 or 7 but let's play it safe.) 8x3.53 = 28.24oz which leads us to 1.77lbs of Cascade 220. Now (1.77x.66)+1.77 = 3 pounds of raw wool that I need. (Did you check my math for me? See any incorrect assumptions?)

I am looking for a minimum of three pounds of raw fleece. Which brings me to about a $70 wool processing price. Not bad at all, much better than the $300 that I started off with.

Last year I took this picture because the fleece was calling to me even then. What can I learn about reading tags in this one photo? Well I can tell Leo is not a big enough fleece for me. He's only 2 and a half pounds. I don't want to fun out of yarn! Plus Leo bumps up my sweater cost to $120. I have no idea where the cost per pound hits the scale; high, low, in the middle.

Now assuming it is what I will have to spend, am I willing to pay $120 for the experience? I mean I know it would be fun to say I chose the yarn right from the fleece but is it practical for me. I am at my heart a frugal practical person. Except that one spontaneous trip to Montreal, I am who I am and proud of it.

Are raw wool fumes stronger than yarn fumes? What about the two of them mixed together?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cooling down

Well look here another pair of socks. Are you surprised? 

Now the only small bit of surprise from you should be that they are not the Pink Spring socks. Plain socks, I can churn them out with my eyes someplace else. Socks that are started in the spring are only finished in the fall (or winter) with me. Yeah I don't know why either. 

Oh wait I do know why, I went on a camping trip and these sat in front of the fire with me. Round and round staring at the flames. Now that is what I call relaxing. I found the pocket on a hoodie makes an excellent place to stash a knitting project when you need your hands free to poke at the fire or make dinner or take a sip of tea.

And pretty too. I must say this yarn did not knit up the way I thought it would. No problems knitting it just the color seems a bit mushed together. I guess they don't pop for me, but I still love them don't worry. They are Malabrigo sock yarn in the Candombe colorway. This is said to be a more delicate sock yarn than others but my socks in the Stonechat colorway are still working for me. I was tentative washing them for the first time in my usual method, as people warned that they had felted and worn through if they were not hand washed. But no problems with me yet....

I started another project with Mom's yarn. I am making her some fingerless mitts to go along with her hat. I really like the way Fetching mitts look so this will be my fifth pair. I hope she likes them.

My toe up sock is progressing but it was left home since I did not want to drag a library book out into the woods camping with us. I will soon be at the gusset increases and am just a tad nervous about the whole plan. Which of course means the project will go into unofficial time-out while I 'think things through' you may read 'get mesmerized by some other pretty yarn' in that quote portion there. I would like to get Mom's mitts done and sent off to SD before winter gets too cold there.

Oh and this weekend is the Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival so you know new yarn will be making its way home with me. New yarn, I will pet it and love it and name it George. (Sorry Adriene but I think that all the time too.)

Monday, September 12, 2011


I found something new at my library. A toe up sock book.

This book has a few different cast ons, three different increases, two heels and a few bind offs. Now I have learned that I am a strict heel flap girl. My feet don't fit in short row heels more than a few sock washings. I am really curious how a reverse heel flap works.

I brought it home just to look through. In theory I would like to learn different ways to make socks but in my heart I know I am top down kind of girl. No not my top, the sock's cuff down to the toe. I have tried a cast on suitable for a toe up sock but as with all things new I found it awkward and it did not work so I gave up and knit several socks the way I know how, the way I like.

But this time I thought, pull out some yarn and give it a go, just practice that is all you need to do. Suddenly the pressure was off and I was able to cast on, just to practice you know? I knit about 20 rounds then realized I did not like the increase I was using because it caused holes on my right leaning increase. Off it went to the frogging pond to start over .

A couple of weeks later I decided I needed more practice. While the cast on is still not fun, I did not want to poke my eyes out with my needles, so that is a good thing. I kept going and now I have this little toe hat.

The colors are pretty, no?

Ahh, as with all the hats I make it is too big. What is it with me and hats? We just don't seem to get along. Don't worry I'm just going to rip it back a little bit, eliminate a couple of stitches, four or eight do you think? I am leaning towards eight but who knows. 

Since it is a big skein of yarn 500 or so yards I planned on trying toe up knee highs so I can use most of the skein. When knitting top down socks it is difficult to know how long to make the leg so you still have enough for the foot. Usually I err on the side of caution and knit my socks about six inches tall. Typical knee highs are double that around 12 to 13 inches tall and since I am short I believe my leg will be shorter than average too. That reminds me I still need to ask the Hubby to help me measure my leg. Ahh the things he will do for love, and more hand knit sweaters. 

Hey look what the squirrel left for me on my deck. You think he likes me?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

New Stuff

D was gone for another trip. He was away at a Deaf camp for silent week to learn more American Sign Language (ASL). In keeping with recent tradition he found a local yarn store and bought me yarn again.

I'm not saying I want him gone but it sure is nice when he brings me yarn and wine. What I forgot to tell you about the wine? We enjoyed a bottle last weekend. Tasty!

This is the other side of the skein showing off a bit of the purple patch. This is ella rae lace merino. I was worried because I don't knit with lace weight yarn, this turned out to be sock weight not lace weight. I have no idea why lace is in the name. I just know that it is beautiful fall colors and I love it. Keep them coming honey. 

My Spring Forward socks are woking towards being Fall Back socks. I just need to keep going on them, slow and steady wins my patterned sock race. 

Here is Mom's new Foliage hat all finished and looking lovely. Hey maybe I am a hat knitter too, after all. Naw, I am a sock knitter that occasionally can be talked into knitting a hat for the woman that gave birth to her.

Surprise I did finish my plain Green Tea socks. Oddly enough I have not yet tried these out. If they don't migrate to the sock drawer they don't make it to the rotation. I'm looking forward to some cashmere goodness wrapped around my feet.

Well that about sums it up for this home front. We have flooding in the area again. I hope everyone is high and dry, unless you live in Texas. I'm trying to convince Mother Nature that Texas would be glad to see this side of her. Seems like she is unwilling to budge right now.

Monday, September 5, 2011

SAG (Support and Gear)

Hubby asked me if I wanted to go with him on his first 12 mile run. I am proud to say I managed stunned silence rather than hysterical laughter. He meant I could be his SAG. He started off and about an hour 20 minutes later I met him at our arranged area. After a water bottle refill and a sweaty wet kiss, not as romantic as it sounds in books, he was off again. 

He is the figure on the left of the road. His route took him down a road the had been flooded by Irene. It took me a minute to realize the brown is not dried out crispy branches but rather muddy leaves. You can tell right where the water crested.

And have you seen such muddy dirty water? I kept hearing the words 'Chocolate Milk' used in reference to our rivers. I prefer my chocolate milk to be actual chocolate and milk, not dirty water.

See my little purple flower I found in the muddy bushes? Do you think it opened after the water receded, that's why it is not brown too?

I think fall is sneaking up on us too. I noticed some trees well above the water line had a different tint too. You can really see how hazy it was that day. Hot and sticky.

I could tell even the road had been submerged at some time. Mud, mud everywhere.

Our area faired pretty well from hurricane Irene. Trees were downed and power was lost (not ours) but considering what could have been... 

Rhinebeck and surrounding areas were flooded, and may still be. Crews are woking to restore normal. I just hope people can get the help that they need.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

New Yarn

As you can tell by my title Labor Day Weekend has kicked-in in the US and I am feeling oh so clever. Hey at least it is truth in advertising if not clever. I while back, I hit one of my Local Yarn Stores (LYS), Common Thread in Saratoga Springs. I had not been there in a while and thought I was over due for a visit. Support the yarn economy and whatnot. 

I was thrilled to find two new (to me) sock yarns for my basket and eventually my feet. First up we have Araucania Ranco Multy. I don't think I've ever seen a sock yarn in this color of turquoise before, or else this color has never called to me before. Congratulations on being the first turquoise yarn to the basket. Maybe it is the touch of grey, grey has my number and uses it frequently.

Second we have MadelineTosh Merino Light in the Malachite colorway. This yarn was on its way to becoming mythical to me. I read about it, I see pictures on the internet, I've never seen it in real life till now.

The one thing I am worried about is its single ply. I promised myself I would not buy single ply sock yarn ever again. In my defense, do you see that color? That color is my favorite in the whole wide world. Deep emerald, forest, malachite what ever name you want to use it says Yarnkettle to me! Now does it want to be socks or fingerless mitts or socks or......

I also cast on a hat for my Mom too. We had picked this yarn on last trip home a year or so ago. Hubby and I were delayed due to a thunderstorm/tornado so I got to spend a extra day at home rather than making it to a hub and spending the night in a hotel and arriving home about the same time.

So what do you do when you're stranded? You go to the yarn store too? I thought as much.

Mom has very good taste since she picked out a yarn I had been looking for, in this gorgeous purple colorway. It is Jaggerspun Zephyr 50/50 Merino/Silk blend KD weight. Such a joy to work with, felt like butter running through my fingers.

Now I have a confession to make, which I have already made to Mom. I had already knit this hat in this yarn once this summer. And I gave the other one away. Gasp, I know! I have not made many hats so I bought more yarn than I thought I would need. Three skeins, each hat took one skein. The first one was done in a weekend which was great because I had struggled with it once before this year, I kept messing up the pattern, somehow. 

The next day was my coworker's birthday and while I don't usually give my knitting away, that hat really wanted to go with her on an Alaskan cruise. She was leaving later that week and had not yet pulled out her winter gear to evaluate. I knew Mom did not need a wool/silk hat in July, especially during that heat wave the US was having. So Mom's hat turned into Laura's hat and got to see a glacier. 

Now Mom's hat is done too waiting for pictures to show it off on the blog. And the last skein of Jaggerspun? I think Mom could use a pair of matching fingerless gloves too. I just hope they don't want to see Alaska, because that ship has sailed.